08/03/2012 10:53 GMT | Updated 22/05/2015 06:12 BST

Terrible Twos: Mixing It Up

Ruby's doll Baby Baby gets some eczema treatment

I find it so lovely observing Ruby piece the world together bit by bit. Rather like in the film, when Bambi is learning how different things behave and he confuses a butterfly with a flower, I see Ru learn the principles of one particular thing, and apply them to the next thing – only to learn that thing behaves completely differently.

That all sounds a bit complicated (and it must be very confusing for her sometimes) but I hope you know what I mean. Anyway, the sweetest example of this came last week. It was a rainy day and so we had decided to, you know, just make house. I was sitting down in the living room to check my emails while Ruby, hidden from view by the big sofa, was playing quietly with her doll (which is called Baby).

The doll, it would seem, suffers very badly from eczema. And so, just as I have to apply a layer of thick ointment to Ruby's and Ava's skin at least twice a day, Ruby had decided she'd better do the same for her little girl. The result looked rather terrifying actually, because Baby's eczema appears to be largely confined to her face and, somewhat unusually, her eyeballs.

Anyway, having spread the big globs of ointment on Ru's hands up her arms to her elbows, and then distracted her with four lumps of cheddar, I whipped off Baby's pink sleep suit (which had somehow escaped the slimeing) and chucked it into the toy pram. Then I quietly took the doll into the kitchen where she was bunged in with a whites wash.

An hour or so later, as I was pottering in the kitchen, I heard a big gasp from the living room. And then:


Ruby belted into the kitchen, looking really worried. "Oh NOOO! Mummy! Mummy LOOK!"

"What, darling? What's the matter?" I just couldn't imagine a tragedy terrible enough to provoke this drastic reaction.

"HAND, HAND!" she said, which means 'come with me'.

I took Ru's hand and she pulled me back into the living room. We went behind the big sofa and she gasped again, loudly and with great drama.

Then she pointed into the toy pram. "Oh NOOOOOOOO!" she wailed. "Baby POPPED!"

The first time a balloon popped in Ruby's presence was a terrible day – and the knowledge that playthings can suddenly, and completely without warning, sort of explode into nothingness, or at least into floppy and rubbish versions of their former selves, has obviously never left her.

"Oh!" I said. But before I could add more, and tell her that Baby was actually in the washing machine, Ru burst into tears.

She continued to cry as I carried her back to the kitchen, where another two lumps of cheddar stemmed the stream of snot and tears. Two minutes later, having switched off the machine a tiny bit prematurely, the door clicked. I opened it, pulled out Baby and offered it to Ruby, who squealed then snatched her toy and hugged it tightly. "No baby pop, no pop!" she said.

So that was a happy ending. I'm just not sure how, the next time a little magic is required, I'm going to produce a fully inflated balloon from that drum.

Terrible Twos: Mixing it up Baby 'popped'